I can tell by the light.
I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but there is luminous quality to the light of autumn as it slants across the deck that tells me summer is over and fall has begun.
It often happens, as would be logical, around the fall equinox, when day and night are nearly equal. Although today is the actual date of the equinox, the change happened about last Wednesday. I looked out my kitchen window and thought, "Summer is over." And it was.
The suddenness with which the fall shift happens always takes me by surprise. I wake up one day it's summer. I wake up the next and it's not. The temperature may still be warm, the grey rains of winter haven't set it, but there it is...a slant of light that heralds the change of season.
Fall used to be my favorite time of year. The crispness of the air, the rich colors, pumpkins and spice, not to mention scarves and boots. Now, not so much. I feel a certain melancholy set in, as I wonder if I can wear my sandals a few more days before I need to shift to sox and closed toed shoes.
Perhaps it is because with each year I grow more acutely aware of the passage of time and how (relatively) little lies ahead compared with that which lies behind. At the back of my mind is the possibility that this could be my last fall, even though, if I were to live anywhere close to my mother's age, I still have decades ahead of me. (Although, of course none of us know how much time we have, even when we are 20 or 30.)
More likely it is because I feel like I haven't really accomplished the things I thought I would when I was 20 and peering into the future. (Fame and fortune seem to have eluded me!) I catch myself looking back with regrets that knot my stomach. I hear myself saying, "If only...." And when I'm in that frame of mind, I feel the tendrils of envy snake out and wrap themselves around my heart.
And with each of these thoughts, the tendrils squeeze more tightly.
When I get into this autumnal state of mind (which is not to be confused with a New York state of mind), it's difficult to extract myself, to sever the tendrils. In fact, I know of only one way to do it...confession.
Being Catholic, I can (and do) avail myself of the formal rite of Confession, but I also know that I must confess with a small "c." I must admit to myself that envy and regret are coiled around my heart. I have to stop looking back, stop berating myself for all the wrong choices, misguided steps, and lapses in judgment. I have to banish the "should have's" because, even if I "should have" the past is the past.
I have to stop steering the barque of my life by the wake and return to the helm. Because winter is coming and I can't afford to waste a day of the fall.